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“Beneath the Deep Blue Sky”

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Bartel, Rob (Canadian playwright, poet, video game designer, 1976-____), “Beneath the Deep Blue Sky,”

a 60-minue multimedia geek fantasia in English, set in a cramped apartment and an Internet cafe, September, October, November, 2002,

2m (+ 1m extra)

; • © 2004 by Rob Bartel; • in Rob Bartel’s Beneath the Deep Blue Sky (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: New Bard Press, 2004), ISBN 1411615190, 48 pp.; • script/rights available from Rob Bartel, 1678 Tompkins Place, Edmonton, Alberta T6R 2Y6, Canada, rbartel@shaw.ca; script preview (PDF) available at http://www.lulu.com/newbardpress; contact playwright via e-mail rbartel@shaw.ca, telephone (home) 1-780-435-6534. • Cited by Rob Bartel, October 23, 2005; Bartel says,

§ Dramatis Personae Peter (m), 25, A disheveled, overstimulated Internet addict and technophile, completely starved of meaningful human contact who’s been seeing a variety of tech-related visions or hallucinations, presumably the result of some undiagnosed schizophrenic tendencies; Daniel (m), 19, a panhandler far from home, plays Alexey Pajitnov/Garry Kasparov/Mathias Rust/Professor David Cope; DJ (m extra), any age, a live deejay at the upstage turntables, mixing a nightly electronica preshow that extends into the play itself, creating a tech-themed soundscape reflective of Peter’s internal world, who occasionally mans the microphone, taking on the voice of God. See comments on Eliza, Dr. Joseph Weizenbaum, and Deep Blue.

§ Synopsis “(Scene i. September) Forced from his apartment by a failed network connection, Peter seeks his fix at the local Internet cafe. Daniel hits him up for change. Inside the cafe, Peter enters an online psychotherapy session with Dr. Weizenbaum, in which they discuss Daniel. Peter has a malevolent vision of Garry Kasparov. God intervenes, instructing Peter to reach out to Daniel. Peter does and returns to his apartment to sleep. (Scene ii. October) Peter wakes from a nightmare of Mathias Rust and cries out for God but receives an Error 404 message from Deep Blue. Peter returns to the cafe only to find that the entire Internet is offline. He and Daniel discuss Peter's visions and begin to piece together the significance of their lives. Peter spends the night in the streets rather than return to his apartment. (Scene iii. November) Peter wakes to find the cafe open and enters to speak with Dr. Weizenbaum. Kasparov reappears, but Peter dispels him. Outside, Peter confesses to Daniel the personal tragedy that led to his visions and admits that Weizenbaum is actually a computer program. Peter bids farewell to Weizenbaum/Eliza and affirms his newly human relationship with Daniel.

§ Comment “Alexey Pajitnov is a Soviet computer programmer who created the phenomenally popular ‘Tetris’ puzzle game. Garry Kasparov is a Russian chess grandmaster, remembered now for his highly publicized loss against an IBM supercomputer named Deep Blue. Mathias Rust is a West German teenager who made world headlines when he landed a small plane in Moscow's Red Square during the height of the Cold War. Professor David Cope is the American creator of Emmy, a computer program capable of composing original music often indistinguishable from the best of the classical canon. A video projector casts images against a scrim or backdrop throughout the play, again reflective of Peter's over-stimulated internal world. Two characters, Eliza and Dr. Joseph Weizenbaum, exist only as unspoken, projected text. Eliza is a simplistic program created at MIT by computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum in the 1960s. He designed Eliza with the personality of a Rogerian psychotherapist. She draws on stock phrases and grammatical inversions to hide her artificial nature. Peter consults 'Dr. Weizenbaum' throughout the play for a series of online psychotherapy sessions. Deep Blue, the chess-playing IBM supercomputer, now serves as the Webmaster of the Celestial Domain, a benevolent angelic functionary for the digital age. • An early draft of ‘Beneath the Deep Blue Sky’ workshopped and appeared at the Carnival of Shrieking Youth, in Edmonton, Canada, May 2001; Andrew Thompson directed that production, which won 1st Prize and helped to launch the first season of the Carnival in Calgary, Canada, later that summer. The play premiered at NeXtFest, Edmonton's Next Generation Arts Festival, Alberta, Canada, June 7, 2002, directed by Sarah Mackey and produced by the BRR in the Wings’ theatre collective. BRR in the Wings subsequently produced the play at the Edmonton International Fringe Festival, August, 2002. New Bard Press published the script, October, 2004; New Bard Press is a theatre micropress committed to publishing innovative new works by emerging playwrights. NeWest Press will include it in an anthology in spring, 2006. • Rob Bartel, born in Saskatoon, Saskachewan, Canada, was the first graduate of the Student Playwright Mentorship Program at 25th Street Theatre Centre, Inc., 600-245 Third Avenue, South Saskatoon, Saskachewan S7K 1M4, Canada. His award-winning plays have gained international acclaim, and his poetry has appeared in numerous Canadian literary magazines. Since 1998, he has written and designed numerous bestselling computer games for BioWare Corp., 200, 4445 Calgary Trail, Edmonton, Alberta T6H 5R, Canada.” • “‘Beneath the Deep Blue Sky’ is a strange and stirring geek fantasia written for the stage by award winning poet, playwright, and computer game designer, Rob Bartel. Schizophrenic Internet addicts, dispossessed panhandlers, Soviet game programmers, digital Mozarts, defeated chess grandmasters, voyeuristic search engines and more chase their varying destinies in this whirlwind exploration of what it means to be human in the age of the computer. The result is a daringly original piece of theatre that sparks the imagination and imprints itself upon the memory for years to come.”—Rob Bartel playwright - plays biography information, http://www.doollee.com/, accessed October 25, 2005.

§ Themes Canadian, computer, Edmonton, electronica, existentialism, Internet, multimedia, new media, techno, technology.

See also Rob Bartel's

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